Sunday, October 2, 2016

Syrian expat philharmonic orchestra

I had the chance to go and see the "Berliner philharmoniker open air 2016" event in the end of August. I don't go often to classical music concerts so thought this would be a nice chance to enjoy some classical music outdoors without this "stiffness" what you sometimes have in the classical music concerts. The "backyard" of Berlin Philharmonic was packed with people when the concert started.

The opening act was The Syrian Expat Philharmonic Orchestra (SEPO, later using the shortening). The group consists of Syrians refugees who had to flee their own war torn country to EU countries and elsewhere. I was really impressed about the passion and the joy the Syrians had in their music, while knowing how horrendous things are happening in Syria at the same time. You could sense the sorrow and sadness from some of the songs, but still the whole set of SEPO was more vivid than the set of the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra. The whole audience of some 5.000 people (guess) were applauding after every song and shouting "Bravo, bravo."

I haven't listened that much Middle-Eastern music and was very impressed about the happiness and livelihood of the music. There were lot of quick changes, the music stayed the whole time interesting and evolving, it didn't have the "typical" ending of the classical pieces which build up into a huge "bombastic" end but it surprised you just when you though you would know what comes next.

After SEPO had finished and the Berlin philharmonic orchestra started it felt like the whole playfulness was gone and the "serious classical music" -mode was on. I felt almost falling half asleep while the orchestra was playing Johannes Brahms and Antonín Dvorák.

It was anyhow good to stay till the end of the concert because I got to hear the announcement that SEPO would be giving a concert in September at the Konzerthaus Berlin. After some weeks I booked my ticket and was very happy that I did!
Konzerthaus Berlin

Waiting for SEPO

Konzerthaus Berlin is a massive, massive building at Gendarmenmarkt at Berlin. It was my very first visit to this venue. The whole hall was packed with people. I think many of people had done the same as me, after seeing and hearing SEPO at the open air booking their tickets for this concert.

Here's shortly the program and the solists.

Conductor: Ghassan Alaboud

Solo clarinet: Kinan Azmeh
Solo violin: MAias Alyamani
Solo nay (sort of a flute): Mohamad Fityan
Solo violin: Jehad Jazbeh
Solo oud (sort of a lute): Maher Mahmoud
Solo percussion: George Oro
Solo soprano: Rasha Rizk

I wished I would/could have done notes from all of the songs. But here are the songs which were played:

1. Tomorrow
2. My beautiful homeland
3. (song name only in Arabic)
4. Oh birds
5. Oh! My homeland
6. Rose
7. One way ticket to Damascus

- Break -

8. Passion
9. Sea waves
10. Damascus - one more aspect
11. The silk road
12. November 22nd
13. Wedding
14. Longa Nahawand


I truly loved the whole concert! It was so great to see so much commitment, strength and passion in the orchestra playing. I was very astonished by the vividness of the music. Some songs reminded me bit of the Greek music. The Middle-Eastern music has such a different rhythm than the western music. It was refreshing to hear something totally new. And knowing what these people had to go trough made the concert extra special. I think many from the audience felt quite moved after the concert. The whole hall was standing and clapping till the orchestra went off from the stage. It was also my first time hearing a soprano singing in Arabic. I would have loved to hear more songs with the oud played by Maher Mahmoud, really loved the sound of it. But I have to admit that all the soloistst were amazing!

Standing ovation

Unfortunately SEPO doesn't have yet any albums out, I would surely want to buy the album of this concert.

You can follow SEPO on facebook here:
Here's the official homepage:

Here's a short video report of DW from the concert in Berlin.

One song from the concert at Malmö, Sweden the day after the concert in Berlin:

"Damascus, one more aspect" (with oud)

And here's their own YouTube channel:

More info about Middle-Eastern music:

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